Friday, June 1, 2018

Solo A Star Wars Story Review: Smuggles The Series' Sense of Adventure

In Star Wars there have been many things to define the franchise like the Jedi and the Rebellion. Yet despite the galaxy far, far, away centering on the heroic tales of the Skywalkers one character manages to steal the show and cannot help but love him for it. This character is none other than the scruffy looking nerfherder himself: Han Solo. Since appearing in the cantina and shooting Greedo the iconic smuggler has been a prevalent addition to the Star Wars franchise. However, despite his role in the franchise, the origin of Han Solo has been all but a mystery on the silver screen; that is until now. With the franchise branching out into the Star Wars Anthology film series, moviegoers can now see Han’s humble beginnings in Solo: A Star Wars Story. While production of the film went through major changes the anthology movie was able to make its release date with director Ron Howard taking the helm for this installment. While it can be hard for me not to be excited for a new Star Wars film, my anticipation for Solo was a subtle one as all I was expecting from this standalone tale was it being a swashbuckling adventure; and in that regard this Star Wars Story did not disappoint.

The story of Solo centers on a young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) who is whisked into a crime filled adventure that leads the novice outlaw meeting the likes of Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) as well as finding his future ship the Millennium Falcon. Even for Star Wars the story of Solo was a simple one; though that was not necessarily a bad thing. Although it was a little jeering to get into the plot to this Star Wars Story was indeed thrilling. The second act in particular was adventurous and really got into the spirit of the series. Granted this was a double edged sword for the plot as the third act did not have the impact as the previous chapter. Another highlight for the plot, although a minor one, was its references to other stories in the Star Wars Saga; both in the films and other mediums. When it came down to it what held this plot back was its structure, but even that was not enough to keep this tale from being a engaging adventure.

Han Solo is an icon in pop culture, as is the man who portrayed him, so someone new taking up the role is an uphill battle to say the least. However I felt that Alden Ehrenreich rose to the occasion in his portrayal of the young Han Solo. The characterization of Han kept true to the smuggler’s outlandish traits while bringing something new to the character; and Ehrenreich was able to bring out this side of Han remarkably well. Aiding in Ehrenreich's performance was Joonas Suotamo as Chewie who provided great chemistry with Han and stole the show in his own right. Also aiding the cast were the solid performances from Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra, Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett and Donald Glover as Lando. Even minor characters such as Val Beckett (Thandie Newton), Rio Durant (Jon Favreau) and L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) were able to stand out despite their limited screen time. If there was one issue in the cast it was Paul Bettany as the criminal Dryden Vos as his presence in the movie was underwhelming; though Bettany's performance did make up for the villain’s shortcomings. It may have its issues but the cast of Solo was effective as it had just much character as any Star Wars ensemble before it.

Being a part of the Star Wars franchise one would expect Solo to heavy in spectacle. However the Anthology Film's sense of movie magic was rather tame. The movie featured an array of effects but it seemed as though this aspect was played on a smaller scale. Then again this scope was not a bad thing as it did work for the movie’s direction in showcasing the criminal underworld of Star Wars. Although the effects were subtle the likes of action certainly lived up to the caliber of the series. Filled with shootouts and chase sequences the action of Solo was thrilling as it brought the movie’s sense of adventure to life. Last and certainly not least was the score by composer John Powell. The music was as vibrant as any Star Wars soundtrack and, just like the action, aided in enhancing the movie;s adventurous directions. Plus the inclusion of a new composition by John Williams certainly did not hurt things either.

In the end I left Solo: A Star Wars Story satisfied. The spin-off was not the most glamorous entry in the franchise as its story structure left much to be desired. However the film steered clear from being mediocre as the likes of the cast and action made this installment an exciting one. Yet perhaps the most notable accomplishment from Solo was its ability to connect the Star Wars galaxy in a way that has not been done in the recent movies. Solo: A Star Wars Story may not be grandest tale from a galaxy, far, far away but the movie was still a welcome addition to the series as it lived up to the traits that makes Star Wars so great.

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